Canon Sandy Milien, Canon for Racial Reconciliation and Community Engagement for the Diocese of Bethlehem, recently returned from a pilgrimage to Tanzania as part of a delegation led by Julia Ayala Harris, the president of the House of Deputies for The Episcopal Church.

The pilgrimage, organized by Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), was aimed to strengthen their partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika’s Development Services Company (DCT-DSC) and contribute to their efforts in building climate-resilient communities. The delegation was warmly welcomed by The Rt. Rev. Dr. Dickson Chilongani, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, his staff, and other diocesan and community leaders.

The partnership between ERD and DCT-DSC is focused on implementing initiatives to empower farming communities, particularly in rural areas with limited access to banking services. One of the most transformative initiatives is the establishment of educational savings groups, providing a platform for individuals to build communal savings, access small loans, and gain insights into business development.

The delegation had the privilege of witnessing the tangible effects of these initiatives in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. The educational savings groups are a source of empowerment, fostering independence especially for women in their saving and farming endeavors. This approach not only addresses their economic challenges but also contributes to the overall resilience of these farming communities in the face of climate change.

During the last few days of the pilgrimage, the delegation embarked on a tour of the island of Zanzibar. Time was spent walking around Stone Town learning about the rich, diverse, yet painful history of the island as a critical player in the East African slave trade. The delegation visited the former slave market where they saw and learned about the remnants of the harsh realities endured by enslaved individuals. One of the most powerful moments was entering the cramped chambers where enslaved women and children were confined before being chained and then traded in the market, unaware of what would unfold for them and their generations to come. House of Deputies President Ayala-Harris then led the group in a moment of silence and prayer to remember the lives of innocent men, women, and children impacted by the sin of slavery and encouraged us as Christians and as a Church to continue to fearlessly commit to our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

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